Milstein’s interpretation of these difficult works is at once brilliant and satisfying – although because of its very brilliance it is not perhaps as deeply satisfying as Johanna Martzy’s. It depends rather on what you imagine to be the ideal surroundings for a performance: a public recital or your own room. The music itself seems to me capable of supporting both interpretations, for it combines the rhetoric of extreme technical difficulty with a richness of detail that seems to call for more intimacy than a recital-hall can give us. Perhaps the ideal performance would retain Martzy’s inwardness, but infuse it with a little of Milstein’s sheer physical vigour and impact. For him the technical difficulties hardly seem to exist, or rather, exist only as a stimulus to bravura; by her they are accepted as an essential, organic part of the music, a result of the complexity of Bach’s thought. I suppose one could generalize on the masculine and feminine approaches to music with this as one’s text, but I don’t feel tempted to do so. Nor do I feel tempted to plump dogmatically for one or the other as 'best available version'. Both are exceptionally distinguished presentations of music that is not nearly as austere as its reputation might suggest. I do suggest, though, that before buying either set it might be a good idea to sample both. Gramophone
J.S Bach: Partitas & Sonatas for unacc. violin
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